A few months ago, I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal questioning the wisdom of the popular “bucket list” model of retirement. This is the model which has retirees spending their golden years chasing once-in-a-lifetime adventures like skydiving, going on safaris, visiting exotic locations and doing things they have wanted to do for years, but put off because of work and family commitments. The idea is to make the most of the time you have left.
Sounds like a pretty good plan, right?
Well, not so fast, says Marc Agronin, a geriatric psychiatrist who authored the article titled, It’s Time to Rethink Bucket-List Retirement . Having observed his patients and colleagues who had been ticking items off their bucket-lists, he found these people generally feeling more depressed and disconnected than other people. “As they travel the world to soak up experiences, too many seniors inevitably lose track of what really matters—their connections to family, friends and community. They feel like strangers in their own homes.”
But there’s a remedy, he writes. “Retirees should think about using all of the advantages that make a bucket list possible, such as wealth and vigor, to build something much deeper and more meaningful. Instead of taking a dream vacation to chase fleeting thrills, they should use their time to create something more lasting instead—whether that means building bonds with family or their community or reimagining travel adventures as an opportunity to share experiences and wisdom with grandchildren.”
I’m not retired but my wife Marci and I took two vacations this summer. The first was a Mediterranean cruise to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. We did this one alone and had a marvelous time seeing some beautiful places we had never seen before. It was definitely a bucket-list experience we will remember for a long time.
But we also did a less glamorous road trip, driving more than 3000 miles to visit our kids and four grandkids (and their parents) who live in the Pacific Northwest. Our grandson Jack, who lives near us in San Diego, rode in our back seat the whole way. We stopped at fast food joints, stayed in cheap hotels and laughed through silly songs like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “I Like to Eat Eight Apples and Bananas.” The trip didn’t cost much, nor did things go exactly how we planned them, but the time with our grandson and the rest of our family was priceless.
Which vacation was best? Well, it’s hard to compare the two, but according to Dr. Agronin, the road trip vacation beat the cruise in terms of ultimate satisfaction. Is it more exciting than zip-lining through a rain forest or cruising through the Greek Isles? “Superficially, no,” he says. “But look a little deeper and I have no doubt that people who take a trip … with children and grandchildren, or volunteer at a local community center, are much more content, much happier, than the passive voyeurs who whiz by, thrilled with the speed and all the photos, but sadly missing the bigger picture.”
Our “bigger picture” of course, is a Kingdom perspective. More than anything in the world, we want our children and grandchildren to come to know, love and serve Jesus, our King. In today’s busy postmodern (and dare we say post-Christian) world, there is no better way for grandparents to share the good news about Jesus with our grandkids than to simply spend time with them.
So what’s on your bucket list? Does it include spending time with your grandkids?
Wayne is the Director of Conferencing for the Legacy Coalition. He is the co-founder of Youth Specialties and Understanding Your Teenager and the author of numerous books on youth and family issues. He also served as Pastor to Generations for several years at College Avenue Baptist Church in San Diego. He and his wife Marci live in Alpine, CA and have three children and five grandchildren.